The Sunday Review

Appetite for Life: The Biography of Julia Child by Noël Riley Fitch

Where I Got It: Library paperback (500 pgs. of text, 69 pgs. of appendices)

Genre: Biography

My Rating: 5/5 for a discriminating palette

Noël Riley Fitch’s 1997 biography of Julia Child is not for the faint of heart.

It’s also not for the casual reader wanting to know a little something about this icon of the food world. It’s a dense, almost scholarly tome that has been researched and curated to give a comprehensive look at a woman who many of us think we know.

And it’s full of pithy Julia Child-isms.

Food is the live entertainment of the future (498).

It’s a shame to be caught up in something that doesn’t absolutely make you tremble with joy! (480)

I don’t think pleasure is decadent. It’s part of life, it’s the juice of life, it’s the reason for living, for everything we do! (460)

Only Moses disrupting the Red Sea caused more commotion than Julia Child’s hike down the housewares-jammed aisles of McCormick Place in Chicago. She fingered, squeezed, patted, bent, and lifted the new appliances, skillets, and microwaves at the National Housewares Manufacturers Association semiannual exhibition. (418)

She is a tomorrow person, not a yesterday person. (407)

Anyone who wants to read this book will already have read Julie and Julia and My Life in France, or at least have seen the movie.  Appetite for Life covers that time as well, but then goes on to finish the story that we didn’t get in those books.

If you are a foodie, you will love this book. Lots and lost of important people in foodie history are named and dissected and Julia Child’s life is examined in minute detail. Published in 1997 before her 2004 death, it doesn’t take you to the bitter end, but there’s a pretty long history of a woman who helped to change the way Americans look at food.

When Julia returned to the United States from her time in Europe, she was horrified to find all of the convenience products that American women were buying — she said they were shopping in the center aisles instead of the outside aisles where fresh produce was waiting. (242) I can really relate to this because I hardly ever go into the middle aisles anymore; I cruise the produce and meat sections for most of what I buy these days. The thing is, Julia Child was saying this in the early 1960s.

One of the good things about getting to be sixty is that you make up your mind not to drink any more rotgut wine. (368)

She is also a woman who reinvented herself in the second half of her life, and for me, it’s a personal motivator to think that perhaps I can also reinvent myself. And I don’t ever have to drink bad wine again. 🙂

My next Julia book: As Always, Julia: The Letters of Julia Child and Avis DeVoto

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3 responses

  1. She is a fascinating woman who had a rich and full life and knew how to have a good time. I read “Julie & Julia” and have her book “My Life In France” to check out next.

    1. You will love My Life in France. I just checked out another of her cookbooks from the library too.

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